If ever there was a writer that took up the cause of cultural Marxism and brought it to the forefront of popular culture it was Herbert Marcuse and his groundbreaking book, Eros and Civilization. Having just read and written a midterm paper on it myself, I can tell you with all honesty that it is one of the most intentionally confusing, obscure, and meandering books that I have ever come across.
Though the book is dense, its Marxist undertones are readily apparent even to the disinterested reader. Having read the book, I would venture to call the author, Marcuse, the father of the blue pill. While rambling on about Freudian pseudo-analysis of man’s true sexual nature, Marcuse advocates the overthrowing of 50’s era western society along psycho-analytic grounds.
Marcuse’s central idea
The fundamental point that Marcuse raises is the idea of surplus repression. The fundamental premise is that civilization with its traditions and its competition based performance principle repress man and require more and more work from him despite the fact that we could all readily live lives of far greater leisure. Furthermore, man is now alienated from the product of his labor and does not take joy in the production of, say, 1000 iPods as much as he would the production of one spear with which he could hunt for food.
According to Marcuse, civilization acts as a source of surplus repression that denies man the expression of one of his most basic drives, the Eros or love drive. According to this theory, man tries to reach out and connect to the entire world by engage in erotic love, or love of a non-sexual nature. Making friends and building communities, when not motivated by the performance principle, are all examples of Eros or non-genital love. The kind of work that society makes us engage in however, is non-erotically charged, repressive, and makes us all deeply unhappy.
Ok, pretty basic Freud stuff so far, whats next?
Marcuse makes the claim that genital intimacy has been elevated above all other forms of sexual intimacy; apparently we used to possess as children what Marcuse calls pre-genital polymorphous perversity in which we love without focusing on genital heterosexual release as a primary goal.
No longer used as a full-time instrument of labour, the body would be re-sexualised… (which) would first manifest itself in a reactivation of all erotogenic zones and, consequently, in a resurgence of pre-genital polymorphous sexuality and in a decline of genital supremacy. The body in its entirety would become an object of cathexis, a thing to be enjoyed – an instrument of pleasure. This change in the value and scope of libidinal relations would lead to a disintegration of the institutions in which the private interpersonal relations have been organised, particularly the monogamic and patriarchal family.
Did you catch the last bit? The executive summary:
Intentionally grandiose language and theorizing to drive home the final point about how the monogamic and patriarchal family is repressive. Didn’t quite follow the logic? Don’t worry, that’s the point, but at least you’re convinced that some sophisticated thought processes went on to arrive at the final point that the nuclear family unit is bad.
Would you be surprised to learn that this is the guy that coined the phrase, “sex, drugs, and rock and roll?” Keep in mind that the work of men like Marcuse, Frankfurt school acolytes in general, formed the intellectual groundwork of the entire 60’s counter-culture movement. His platform promised a utopia of sex on demand with every single perversity of every single individual fulfilled because it was grounded in their childlike innocence.
True red-pillers know that all the betas marching around in berets were the first to lose out on the sexual bonanza promised by the “sexual revolution” as they found out that, much to their horror, women’s unrestrained sexual nature is hypergamous, and beta boy waving the hammer and sickle was the first victim of the laissez-faire sexual marketplace. God has a sense of humor, I suppose.
The repudiation of tradition
With Marcuse, tradition, with its guiding structures and underlying understanding of objective truth, is seen as something repressive and worth overthrowing. But the exploration of our animal curiosities is the key to our happiness as individuals and as a society. Somehow this repudiation of society built on humanity’s development of a super-ego, through a Great Refusal, as Marcuse puts it, will suddenly return us to children romping around free to engage in polymorphous perversity whenever we please. Oh yeah, and we’ll get to keep all the benefits of industrial civilization as well!
Truth, however incomprehensible it may be to us, should be the true motivator of society. Even if it isn’t, it will always rear its ugly head and remind us that social projects are by their very nature attempts to defy human nature. I hesitate to say more about Marcuse, except to mention that this was the popular voice of the 60s calling for overthrow of patriarchy, black revolt, and discarding of traditional values, all in the favor of something called the pleasure principle—the idea that humans live to experience erotic pleasure and that any digression from this pursuit is damaging and to be avoided at all costs.
Take that as you will. Personally the conflation of these disparate ideas seem to be a logical leap at best, but keep in mind that logical, systematized theory was never the modus operandi of Marcuse’s work. His was an emotional appeal, riding the populist indignation of worker exploitation to market completely disparate, unrelated and toxic ideals to upper-middle class white folks living in a baby boomer utopia and fundamentally divorced from reality.
The appeal to the counter-culture youth worked, and now we wonder why university students are the chubby-cheeked herbivores who march around in Guy Fawkes masks shrilly chanting “we r legiun, end raep cultur NAW!!!” If you ask me, guys like Marcuse had a lot to do with it. But I believe we may be nearing a tipping point—enough of us are waking up, and maybe it is high time for a counter-culture movement of our own.